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October 31, 2016

The Grand Miracle

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)

C.S. Lewis called the Incarnation – the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the “Grand Miracle,” the superlative event that makes all other miracles possible and gives them meaning. He wrote, “all the well-established Christian miracles are part of [the Incarnation], that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation.” Lewis wrote about those who try to “strip Christianity” of its “miraculous elements” and those who suggest Christianity would be a “less embarrassing” religion if people didn’t have to believe in supernatural events – in particular, the crazy notion that Jesus rose from the dead. Lewis said, “The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle … what is beyond all space and time, which is uncreated, eternal, came into Nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing Nature up with Him …. If you take that away, there is nothing specifically Christian left.” Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the linchpin for Christianity, and any miracle that might happen today is only possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The miracle you seek today depends utterly and completely on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – real events that took place in a real place in the world more than two thousand years ago, a miracle of physical reality, spiritual transformation, and eternal consequence.

Beyond the overwhelming evidence for the Resurrection, what grabs my heart most and won’t let go when I read the gospel accounts is that the death and resurrection of Jesus are immensely, specifically personal. This story is about people, about ordinary men and women like you and me. It’s about Peter slicing off a soldier’s ear to defend Jesus and, then only hours later, denying three times that he even knew the man. It is about the traitor, Judas. It is about Joseph of Arimathea, who provided the tomb for Jesus’ body. It is about the Centurion at the foot of the cross. It is about Mary, Jesus’ mother, whom Jesus addressed while nailed to the cross. It is about Pilate, the Roman ruler who didn’t know what to do when the crowd demanded crucifixion for this innocent man. And then a few days later, it is about Thomas, who doubted, and Mary Magdalene, who mourned, and John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 21:7)

In this grand miracle, one that reveals the cosmic significance of Christ’s death, the camera stays tight, comes in close, and focuses on the faces of ordinary people. I’m sure this is no accident. The meaning is cosmic indeed, but even more it is intimate and personal. This miracle is about human hearts and the souls of men and women and how they responded to this jaw-dropping moment in time, this epic true story, this grand miracle. As transcendent as God is, he is also immanent, personal, up close. He isn’t just out there, but in here.

In the faces of these individuals that we might think are just bit players, we see reflections of ourselves. Each person, in one way or another, had given up. Inside each of them was a miracle-need like those we experience today. And the way those individuals responded to that time-stopping moment as they looked into the eyes of Jesus might well reflect how we respond to Jesus today.